THIS NEWSPAPER accepts the jurisprudential canon that persons accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty, and should be allowed to avail themselves of the best defence to prove that innocence.
We also subscribe to arrested persons being allowed bail, except where it is patently clear that such persons pose a flight risk and/or actions that might pervert the course of justice.
We insist, too, that it is the right of individuals, in accordance with the Constitution and laws of Jamaica, to, where the courts so demand, underwrite the conditions for the bailing of any individual.
Against the backdrop of the foregoing, we have no cause for complaint if a court, in its wisdom, and in accordance with the law, judged it right nearly three years ago to offer Carlos Hill bail in the Cash Plus affair. Mr Hill allegedly operated a Ponzi scheme that bilked Jamaicans of billions of dollars.
Neither would we, in normal circumstances, be bothered about who stood bail for Mr Hill.
Except that this is an exceptional circumstance which, at the very least, raises questions about the judgement of a senior civil servant, Mr Robert Rainford. For, as Mr Rainford would appreciate, given the kinds of positions he has occupied for many years, public perception of his conduct matters.
Mr Rainford is currently the permanent secretary and senior civil servant in the local government ministry. Three years ago, he held a similar position in the justice ministry.
It emerged this week - the delay is a failing of the profession of which this newspaper is a part - that, as permanent secretary, Mr Rainford offered surety of $15 million for Mr Hill's bail.
We assert, first, our confidence in, and respect for Jamaica's judiciary as fiercely independent and above corruption, in the broadest sense. Our judges, as we perceive them, are guided by the Constitution and the independence it affords them.
Further, we are aware that Mr Rainford, with regard to its management, even as the permanent secretary in the justice ministry, would have had little interaction with judges in their day-to-day functions and no influence whatsoever over how they do their jobs.
Yet, public perception of the relationship between his then ministry and the justice system, including the courts, could not have been lost on Mr Rainford. After all, it was his department, before the establishment of a specialised agency to manage the non-judicial affairs of the courts, that had oversight for routine operational issues and budgets. It might not be an unreasonable view of those not fully seized of the intricacies of the system if they presumed that Mr Rainford exerted influence he did not have, and even if he did, would probably choose not to exercise.
But the issue is not only about judges. There are other areas of the justice system which would have come in contact with Cash Plus, including the trustee in bankruptcy, where Mr Rainford, in his previous job, might have been presumed to have influence.
All this is not to suggest that a permanent secretary or senior civil servant should be barred, in any circumstance, from standing surety for anyone. Each case stands on its own merit or circumstance.
In this one, Mr Rainford's judgement was questionable.
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